I’m generally not a person who takes long to process. When something happens that requires action, I respond. It may not always be the best response but no grass grows under my feet.
When Matthew was told he most likely has MS, I couldn’t act. I’ve always referred to this as feeling paralyzed until a friend opened my eyes to the idea that choosing to not act is an act itself and I guess that’s what I did. I didn’t force anything or immerse myself in research. I felt the heaviness of waiting like I was watching a weather forecast predicting a natural disaster, wondering if it would hit us. It felt (and still feels) too big. I know that you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time but what if you have no idea what the elephant looks like? What if the elephant is actually a whale or a planet?
For the first 4 days I waited. Waited for the neurologist, waited for a sign, waited for a direction. I alternated between crying and dissociating (a sometimes handy remnant from my traumatic childhood). We told no one and tried to wrap our minds around it. When I visualize wrapping my mind around something I picture my brain stretching like Play Doh to enfold all possibilities. This could be a mistake, it doesn’t have to progress, this is the end of life as we know it.
My stepmom was the first person we told. I was texting with her about our family vacation plans and I told Matthew, “I think we need to tell her.” There was hesitation because once you say it out loud to another human being it makes it real. I want to give answers, strategies, solutions. It’s one thing to feel helpless inside of a situation but it’s another to subject your loved ones to that helplessness. I struggled between wanting support and wanting more time to not put a happy face on the whole thing. Yes, we are optimistic and positive. Things could always be worse. But let’s be real. Things could always get worse too. I needed space for that reality. I’m a person who looks for silver linings but I’m also a person who needs to feel it all.
A couple of days ago I felt an overwhelming need to sleep. It was like I had taken a bite out of the poisoned apple and nothing could keep me from closing my eyes. I laid on the couch, TV blaring, kids laughing, kitten attacking, and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. No amount of chaos could wake me. I sprung up two hours later answering a question my daughter asked, never consciously hearing the question. One moment I was comatose on the couch and the next I was sitting up, conversing like I had never been asleep.
Years ago, before I began to recover from complex PTSD, I would be sick for days when I was trying to grapple with emotions. I would be physically ill from it. I didn’t know how to be in my body, to recognize when I needed rest or needed to cry. I just buried it all until my body was sick of my excuses. (I highly recommend reading The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk)
Now, I take naps. I do yoga. I take extra long showers so that I can ugly cry. I text and email with my girlfriends. I journal. I nourish my body. Lately, I cuddle with our kitten and meditate to his purr. And, now I’m blogging again. It helps me process. I’m like a detective going back to a crime scene looking for patterns and evidence missed.
We met with Matthew’s neurologist last week and got a sense of the road ahead. I’m comforted by the fact that the future is not written in stone. And, either way, we’re damn good sculptors. There’s a Templeton Thompson song that I love and it’s my mantra right now. I used to wait for the other shoe to drop because in my experience it always did. But, also in my experience, I have been cared for and carried. I have the tools to go down this road. And, I have survived.